TIME North Korea

North Korea Said to Ban Foreigners From Marathon

Regime reportedly cites Ebola as a concern

North Korea has banned foreigners from participating in the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon, citing concerns over Ebola, a company that facilitates foreign travel to the isolated country said Monday.

“We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners,” Koryo Tours said in a statement on its website.

The marathon, scheduled this year for April 12, typically draws a large foreign contingent. Koryo Tours alone had planned to take 500 people to the country for the event, according to Reuters. The company said it planned for March tours to proceed as previously scheduled.

North Korean authorities also reportedly cancelled the annual Mass Games—a gymnastics festival that typically drew a foreign crowd—without providing an explanation.

The North Korean government offered no apparent explanation for its Ebola concerns. The disease has killed thousands of people around the world, but none of the deaths have been in Asia. The country’s government has claimed through state television that Ebola was created by the U.S. government.

TIME technology

See How Photoshop Has Altered the Way We See the World

Photoshop turns 25 years old today, take a look back at how it has been used for better and for worse

TIME North Korea

Someone Has Hacked Into Kim Jong Un’s Hair

NKOREA-POLITICS-KIM
KCNA/AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a meeting of the political bureau of the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, Feb. 18, 2015.

The evolution of the the North Korean leader's hairstyle continues

The Supreme Leader of North Korea appears to be changing things up stylewise, even as his government comes under renewed fire for human rights abuses.

At a politburo meeting on Wednesday, Kim Jong Un displayed a new haircut that appears to be the latest in his evolving style. The upward trapezoid-shaped hair is even more pronounced than previous hairdos, and his eyebrows aren’t getting any larger.

READ MORE Watch North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un Take the Controls of an Airplane

North Korea observer Frank Feinstein called out the makeover on Twitter.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Threatens Strong Response to D.C. Rights Meeting

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Jang II Hun, left, is seated between North Korea's mission consulars Kin Song, center, and Kwon Jong Gun, right on Feb. 16, 2015 in New York
Bebeto Matthews—AP North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Jang II Hun, left, is seated between North Korea's mission consulars Kin Song, center, and Kwon Jong Gun, right, in New York on Feb. 16, 2015

North Korea says it will respond "very strongly" to Tuesday's conference in D.C. on its human-rights abuses

(UNITED NATIONS) — North Korea says it will respond “very strongly” to a conference in Washington on Tuesday about its widespread human rights abuses and says the United States ignored Pyongyang’s offer to attend and defend itself. Puzzled conference organizers said the event was open to the public.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Jang Il Hun told reporters Monday his country has asked the U.S. government to “immediately scrap the so-called conference” hosted by the nonprofit Center for Strategic & International Studies. Speakers include Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

Victor Cha, Korea chair at CSIS, said he was not sure what Jang was referring to. “We issued no specific invitations to anyone,” he said.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has been on the defensive ever since a groundbreaking U.N. commission of inquiry detailed vast rights abuses there. International pressure behind last year’s report led the U.N. Security Council to place the issue on its agenda of matters of international peace and security.

Jang said he sent a formal request to his counterpart in the State Department and that the counterpart responded that the conference was not a government one. “That means our request was denied,” Jang said.

North Korea and the United States do not have formal diplomatic relations, but Jang is tasked with communicating through the so-called “New York channel” that the country’s U.N. mission uses to reach out to U.S. officials. Jang said his communication to the U.S. was only about the conference.

The U.S. restricts North Korean diplomats to traveling within a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius of midtown Manhattan, and they must request permission to go farther.

The State Department said the conference was a privately organized event.

North Korea has repeatedly said the U.S. uses the human rights issue as a pretext to overthrow it, and it has started demanding that the U.S. should instead look into the CIA’s “torture crimes.”

The U.N. General Assembly in December approved a resolution that urged the council to refer North Korea’s human rights situation to the International Criminal Court, and the head of the commission of inquiry has written to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warning that he could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

“We are not guilty of any crime,” Jang said Monday, smiling.

But alarmed by anything targeting their young leader, North Korean diplomats briefly proposed last year that the U.N. high commissioner for human rights could visit their country if the U.N. resolution would drop the language about Kim and the ICC.

Jang on Monday told reporters that the opportunity had passed. “Once it’s gone, we have to start all over again,” he said.

Jang also has said his foreign minister was not allowed to attend a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats about North Korea’s human rights during the U.N. General Assembly of world leaders last fall.

Another organizer of Tuesday’s conference, Greg Scarlatoiu with the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said he had not heard from North Korea about it. “I find it encouraging that North Korea is paying attention to a conference commemorating one year since the release of the report, since they’ve been unwilling to accept the commission of inquiry,” he said.

TIME Cybercrime

Obama Acknowledges U.S. ‘Plays Offense’ on Foreign Hacking

He compared it to basketball, because Obama

President Obama acknowledged that the United States “plays offense” against other countries online, arguing that the lines between defensive and aggressive actions are blurred in the world of cybersecurity.

In an interview with the tech news website Re/Code during a visit to Silicon Valley, Obama compared online security to basketball, describing a fluid situation where America routinely switches between offensive and defensive actions.

“This is more like basketball than football in the sense that there’s no clear line between offense and defense,” he said. “Things are going back and forth all the time.”

MORE: Obama Calls on Silicon Valley to Help Thwart Cyberattacks

He also argued that the technology goes both ways “because when you develop sufficient defenses, the same sophistication you have for defense means that potentially you can engage in offense.”

The remarks come after cyberattacks last year aimed at Sony over the planned release of the comedy The Interview, for which U.S. officials blame North Korea, and more recent attacks on the Anthem insurance company, in which China is suspected of playing a role.

Obama called for a set of international protocols that would set “clear limits and guidelines” on cyberwarfare.

MORE: Here’s How Obama Wants to Protect Against Hackers

“It’s not as if North Korea is particularly good at this,” he said. “But look how much damage they were able to do.”

He also argued that Iran is “good” at hacking, while China and Russia are “very good.”

The president was also asked about what technologies he uses personally.

“I don’t have a Fitbit yet, but I work out hard,” he said. “Word is these Apple Watches might be a good companion for my workouts. So I’m gonna see, I’m gonna test it out.”

TIME North Korea

Here Are 7 of the Weirdest North Korean State Slogans

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) appl
ED JONES—AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) applauds during a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

"Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms!"

The North Korean leadership published a list of more than 300 slogans in state media on Thursday ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country’s Workers’ Party this year.

The lengthy list, comprising some 6,000 words in English translation, provides an often comical sense of some of the priorities of the government. Some of the statements are typical of the bellicose rhetoric North Korean directs toward South Korea and the United States, while others are more general declarations for improving different aspects of life, ranging from food production to the style of school uniforms.

An English translation was posted by the KCNA Watch, a website that monitors the North Korean official news agency. Here’s seven of the more bizarre slogans on the list:

  • “Let us build a fairyland for the people by dint of science!”
  • “More stylish school uniforms and quality school things for our dear children!”
  • “Should the enemy dare to invade our country, annihilate them to the last man so that none of them will survive to sign the instrument of surrender!”
  • “Let the wives of officers become dependable assistants to their husbands!”
  • “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”
  • “Launch more cutting-edge sci-tech satellites and applications satellites of our style!”
  • “Make fruits cascade down and their sweet aroma fill the air on the sea of apple trees at the foot of Chol Pass!”

See the full list here

 

TIME North Korea

Lil’ Kim’s Dad ‘Wanted $10 Billion to Hold a Summit with South Korea’

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il  speaks
DMITRY ASTAKHOV—AFP/Getty Images North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il speaks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (not pictured) during their meeting at Sosnovy Bor Military Garrison, Zaigrayevsky District, Buryatia outside Ulan-Ude on August 24, 2011.

Apparently, you can put a price on peace

In 2009, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Il set steep demands for holding a summit with the South, including $10 billion and half a million tons of food, according to former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in a new book.

“The document [of demands] looked like some sort of standardized ‘summit bill’ with its list of assistance we had to provide and the schedule written up,” said Lee in extracts seen by Reuters, referring to Pyongyang’s request for 800,000 combined tons of rice, corn and fertilizer. “We shouldn’t be haggling for a summit.”

Upon receipt of Kim’s demands, Lee says he chose not to acquiesce, scuppering prospects for negotiations between the long-time foes.

While North and South Korea have officially been at war since 1950 — separated by a slender buffer known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone — talks have occasionally been held, and new summits are intermittently proposed. Current North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Park Geun-hye have not outright rejected the possibility of a meeting this year.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

North Korea May Be Restarting Nuke Plant, Says U.S. Institute

North Korea Reactor
Airbus Defense and Space, Spot Image, Pleiades - CNES via 38 North—AP An annotated satellite photo indicating signs of new activity at the 5 MWe Plutonium Production Reactor at North Korea'’s Nyongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center

Satellite images reveal that the isolated state may be resuming the nuclear project

(SEOUL) — North Korea may be attempting to restart its main nuclear bomb fuel reactor after a five-month shutdown, a U.S. research institute said Thursday.

If true, the finding, which is based on recent commercial satellite imagery, will be an added worry for the United States and the North’s neighbors at a time of increasing animosity over recent U.S. sanctions against the North and Pyongyang’s fury about a U.N. push to punish its alleged human rights abuses.

Activity at the 5-megawatt Nyongbyon reactor is closely watched because North Korea is thought to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, part of its efforts to build an arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles that could one day hit America’s mainland. Nyongbyon, which has produced plutonium used for past nuclear test explosions, restarted in 2013 after being shuttered under a 2007 disarmament agreement. It has been offline since August.

Possible signs in satellite imagery from Dec. 24 through Jan. 11 that the reactor is in the early stages of being restarted include hot water drainage from a pipe at a turbine building that indicates steam from the reactor and growing snow-melt on the roofs of the reactor and turbine buildings.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, however, said that since the recent observation period was only about two weeks, it’s too soon to reach a definitive conclusion about what’s happening and more monitoring is needed. The institute’s website, 38 North, published the findings.

Nyongybon can likely produce about one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year. A uranium enrichment facility there could also give it a second method to produce fissile material for bombs. It is not clear if North Korea has yet mastered the technology needed to make warheads small enough to be mounted on missiles, but each nuclear test presumably moves its scientists closer toward that goal.

North Korea has said it is willing to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks last held in 2008, but Washington demands that it first take concrete steps to show it remains committed to past nuclear pledges.

The United States also rejected a recent North Korean offer to impose a temporary moratorium on its nuclear tests if Washington scraps its annual military drills with Seoul; Pyongyang claims those drills are invasion preparation. The U.S. called the linking of the military drills, which it says are defensive and routine, with a possible nuclear test “an implicit threat.”

Always rocky ties between Pyongyang and Washington dipped lower because of a recent Hollywood movie depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.S. blames the North for crippling hacking attacks on the movie’s producer, Sony, and subsequently imposed new sanctions on the country, inviting an angry response from Pyongyang, which has denied responsibility for the cyberattacks.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 28

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. As pressure builds for U.S. military attention to Boko Haram in Nigeria, that nation’s political situation and past abuses complicate planning.

By Kevin Baron and Molly O’Toole at Defense One

2. What was once an “artist” is now a “creative entrepreneur.” Marketing and networking have forever changed art.

By William Deresiewicz in the Atlantic

3. Does the rising danger of digital attacks mean traditional warfare is irrelevant?

By David Barno and Nora Bensahel in War on the Rocks

4. Probability forecasts would take some getting used to, but they are a better way to tell the public about major weather events.

By Graham T. Beck in Time

5. Improving the ‘cold chain’ — how food stays fresh from farm to table — could massively reduce waste and carbon emissions.

By Adam Wernick at Public Radio International

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME North Korea

Russia Confirms North Korea Leader’s Visit in May

TO GO WITH Oly-2012-PRK,FEATURE(FILES)
Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un saluting as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012 .

Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether the reclusive leader himself might attend

North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un, will reportedly make his first official visit abroad this May to attend a World War II commemorative ceremony in Moscow, Russian officials said on Wednesday.

Russia’s presidential spokesperson confirmed that North Korea’s leader was among 20 “state leaders” who plan to attend the ceremony, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

However, the Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether Kim would attend in person or would be represented by his nominal head of state for foreign relations, Kim Yong-nam.

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